Clearwater, Florida — Officers from the Clearwater Police Department responded recently to a residence after receiving reports of a family dispute that resulted in a shooting. That call, made to 911, resulted in a large number of officers responding, light and sirens, to the home.
Law enforcement obtained information that the resident, Nadia, at that address frequently live-streams on Twitch, a live streaming platform for gamers. That information was obtained from a number of various sources given the incident address and based on prior information in their computer system.
Officers were able to make contact with Nadia and confirm that this was indeed a swatting call. The officer was even able to make an appearance on her live stream and added his own little bit of entertainment. The officer stated, “Her stream doesn’t need to end early just because someone wants to be a jerk.” He even encouraged 5 more of her followers to show their support so she could achieve her new daily subscriber goal of 200.
The stream, at the time, was being viewed by a several thousand of her over 260,000 followers.
YouTube video of Clearwater Police after responding to swatting call
Swatting is a term that comes from the acronym, SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), a team prepared to engage threats from shootings, robberies and/or hostage situations. The incident begins when one someone finds a streamer’s address and then places a fake emergency call. These call details are usually extreme in nature which sends a large number of officers to the location.
Multiple Twitch streamers experienced similar incidents in the past few days including IShowSpeed, Keffals, and Adin Ross. Celebrities also victimized in the past include Justin Bieber, Ryan Seacrest, Chris Brown, Tom Cruise, Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus. The target may also be a facility such as a school or other building leading to huge police responses and mass evacuations.
Many of the calls to 911 use Voice over IP (VoIP) technologies including caller ID spoofing and are very difficult to track. Investigating these crimes requires extensive resources and are very time consuming.
In June of 2021, amendments were made to Florida Statue 817.49 dealing with False reports of commission of crimes. Calling in a false report of a crime is classified as a misdemeanor of the first degree. If anyone is injured or a death results as a result of the hoax, charges are then upgraded to a felony. The amendment also requires restitution for full payment of any cost incurred by a responding public safety agency.
Swatting calls have resulted in several deaths over the past several years. In one 2017 case, California resident Tyler Barriss, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his actions. Prosecutors say following a 911 call, Wichita police responded to the home of 28 year-old Andrew Finch on Dec. 28, 2017. A caller claimed to be inside with hostages and a gun. Unaware of the swatting call, Finch, answered the door as officers surrounded his home. He was ultimately fatally shot on his porch by officers.
The Tampa Bay area is home to many very popular streamers including esports player, Tfue, who is best known for playing Fortnite. He has over 11 Million followers on Twitch. He has also been the victim of multiple swatting calls over the years.
Anyone that does live steaming should contact their local police department and introduce themselves to minimize risks associated with these potentially dangerous incidents. The particular agency or department can add notes to the streaming address which could prove beneficial to responding officers. Many times, the streamer can provide multiple alternative contacts in the event one of these hoax calls are received through the 911 system. Some local agencies have actually stored the link to a streamer Twitch feed that can be viewed by dispatchers. This would allow the dispatchers to view the live stream and confirm that there is no urgent situation developing.